Early childhood behavioral problems have long been a fascination of the psychology community. Direct exposure to violence is often blamed as the culprit. Studies by Linares along with O’Donnell, Schwab-Stone and Muyeed both attempt to measure this effect. Different age groups and methods were used to test participants, but both surveys have logical results in regards of the impact of community violence.
Linares’ study argues that maternal distress, community violence and early childhood development problems have a significant correlation. 160 children between ages 3 and 5 who lived in high crime neighborhoods were part of the research. All the children were none referred. The pediatric patients were chosen based on zip codes with high crime rates. 5 urban contiguous residential zip codes with the highest crime rates were chosen. Over 72 percent of the children had mothers of African descent. A significant amount of the mothers were single heads of household, and a majority of them had low to moderate socioeconomic status.
Perceived crime, social disorders, fear of crime and co-witnessed violence were measured all measured during the study. Perceived crime was assessed by a community survey were the amount of crime was rated on a 4 point scale. Social disorder was assessed based on drugs, decay, and antisocial disorders on a 3 point scale from the community survey. Fear of crime was based on the maternal fear of crime scale. This was a 4 point scale and included things like letting children playing outside, restrictions and protecting personal property. Co-witnessed violence was assessed by the frequency of a child’s exposure to violence which included arrests, murder, and burglary. Maternal distress, family aggression, internalizing and externalizing behavior problems were also addressed. Structural equation models were used to estimate the indirect and direct effects that community violence had on the 160 children studied.
The study had several interesting results. Socioeconomic status was correlated with partner aggression and African American mothers co-witnessed more crime than their other African counterparts. Externalizing and internalizing behavioral problems were both correlated with socio economic status, perceived crime, maternal stress disorder, partner aggression towards the mother and child, global maternal distress and fear of crime. Internalizing behavioral problems were also correlated with co-witnessing violence and social disorders.
They hypothesis of this research was correct. There is a direct correlation between community violence and child behavior problems. Maternal distress mediates this correlation though. I agree with the findings of this research. The maternal role has a significant impact on child development. If a child is exposed to high crime and violence, along with distress in the home, its development will be compromised. I’m not surprised by the significant impact on socioeconomic status has either. I believe that socioeconomic status has a direct correlation to goodness to fit. Maternal and child distress snowball. The distress of both parties combines. In order to reduce early childhood behavioral problems, community violence and maternal distress has to be addressed.
The second survey also attempts to address community violence. Its subjects were quite a bit older though. 170 classes of 6th, 8th, and 10th graders were surveyed during a regular survey. The Social and Health Assessment was used to evaluate the kids. The students were guided by the teacher of the classroom.
Students were asked a variety of questions. Questions of Abuse, violence and drug abuse were asked. Future expectations, interpersonal relations and self reliance were also addressed on a point scale. Socioeconomic and ethnic factors played a significant role in the survey of adolescences as well. Victims and witnesses of violence were more likely to be African American, more specifically male. They were also likeier to receive free lunch. Victims of violence also were likeier to have had to repeat a grade. Victims of violence had lesser expectations for the future than other groups. This suggests that be a direct participant of violence has a more significant impact on behavioral and adaptive problems compared to witnessing violence.
There are more differences between the two surveys. O’Donnell’s survey had significantly older participants. In fact, the first set of children was analyzed by the self-report of the mother. In The second survey of middle and high school students, the adolescences were directly surveyed. They were reporting their own personal behaviors. The middle and high school students were also surveyed in a different environment. The 3-5 year old children were studied in their home environment while the older adolescences were surveyed in a classroom. This could have had a significant impact on the results of both surveys. The kids in the classroom could have been in a rush, or they could have been completely disinterested in the survey because of the school atmosphere. The younger children may have been easier to study because the root of the behavior problems may be more evident. The older children were able to self-report their own experiences though.
There are several other factors that neither survey addresses. Video games, television, and music could have had an influence on these children. The lack of a parent in a household could have also played a role in perceptions of violence, fear, and overall behavior. The quality of education that these students were receiving could have had an impact on things like future expectations. Inner city schools have notoriously been accused of not providing adequate education to students. Violence may have an impact on this, but it isn’t the main cause. Lack of funding, larges classrooms, and run down facilities is the bigger issue. I think that the economic aspect of both surveys has the largest impact on these children as a whole. Children who don’t have financially successful, independent parents might not see these characteristics in the future for themselves either. I agree with the findings of both surveys, but I also think that more emphasis should be placed on understanding why community violence in these areas is such a major problem.